Facebook has over one billion users, that’s one out of every seven people on the planet.  Forty-eight percent of small businesses, some which don’t even have a Website, have created a Facebook page in an attempt to reach them.


Joel McKinnon, president of McKinnon Insurance of New Philadelphia, Ohio, has over 2,000 “likes” for his Facebook page.  Joel talks with me about how to create a successful Facebook page for your business.

Q: How did you get started with a Facebook page?

A: Our agency was started in 2003, heavily focused in commercial insurance, but we wanted to balance that with consumer accounts.  I had experience marketing to the commercial accounts, but when it came to going after to consumers, I didn’t know what to do.

At first I tried billboards and radio, but the costs were too high for a small business owner.  So around 2010 I decided to make the transition to social media.

Social media is all about interacting with family, friends and acquaintances.  Facebook provided a natural connection to those people.  It gave us a great way to look at our customers and to see what was going on in their lives.  We tried to connect using a friend’s recommendation, which is the most powerful marketing tool out there.  If you see a friend doing something, chances are, you are also going to give it a shot.

We needed something that would allow us to stand out from the other agencies in town which had been established for a long time.  For us to make an impact and to get people to know us, we had to do something different.

So we decided to become the “social” agency.  We threw the suit and tie out the window and went with jeans and logo wear.  We tried to create a whole different image for an insurance agency, and it caught on for us.

Q: What has having a Facebook page done for your agency?

A: It has given us a voice.

If you put up a billboard or run a newspaper ad, you send out a message and it’s done.  That doesn’t give our clients the opportunity to get to know us as people.  People buy from those they know and trust, not from a brand.  Even if they love the brand, that doesn’t mean they are going to love us, because they don’t yet know who we are.

Social media gives us the opportunity to show how we are involved in the community and who we are as individuals.  It also allows us to demonstrate who we are as an agency.

Q: One of the concerns for businesses starting a page is “Where can I get content?” Where do you get the content for your page?

A: Unfortunately, I see a lot of other businesses trying to use Facebook as a selling platform.  Facebook wasn’t built to sell a product or service, but rather to connect with people, to find people that maybe you haven’t seen in twenty years.

When we initially started our Facebook page, we would write things like ‘We just saved so-and-so so much money by switching’ or ‘Did you know this about life insurance?’ or ‘Did you know that about renter’s insurance?’

Because what we were writing was so product specific, no one paid any attention.  There was no interaction whatsoever.

It all changed one day when we posted a photograph of a little girl on a tropical island with the caption, ‘Tuesday morning.  Wish I were here.  How about you?’

We got a ton of responses!

It’s not about trying to sell your clients anything.  It’s all about making them aware of your brand so that, maybe, when it comes time for your potential clients to make a decision about insurance, they’ll think about you.

So we try to put things on our Facebook page that are relevant to our community, like ‘Hey, good luck to a local sports team’ or ‘Are you going to attend the festival?’  We want to give people an opportunity to respond.

Insurance is boring enough.  It’s a necessary evil that everybody is forced to have.  Nobody likes being told what to do.  So they’re already upset that they have to buy insurance.  And if you try to tell them why they need to buy insurance from you, they will unfriend you.

So try to put content out there that may soften the blow of being told what to do.  Give your audience something to comment on.  Try to make people connect with you and start a conversation.

If I see something that looks like an advertisement, I’ll blow right past it.  But if I see a picture of something, my eyes will be attracted to it.  As a result, we try to put a picture next to everything we post.

If you want to get serious with us, you can check out our blog, where we will post information on the serious topics.  And, a Website?  Websites are dead!  A Website is a stagnant place where the information doesn’t change very often.  You have no idea who is looking at a Website.  And there is no way to have a conversation with it.

In the social world, I can connect with people and give them a reason to talk about my brand.  I can see who is talking about my brand, and even where they are from.  I can learn a little more about them.

Sales is about learning about your audience.  We want to sell you a product, then become your friend and find out who you truly are.  As a result, price no longer becomes an issue.

Q: Another concern of people is, “I have a business to run, where am I going to find the time for social media?” How would you answer them?

A: You have to make the time.  If you are not making the time, someone else is.  The majority of your customers and prospects are looking for you on the Internet.  If you are not there, it will cost you more time and money in the long run.

While traditional media still works, people are turning to social outlets first.  At our agency, it is a natural part of our business day.  We open our e-mail and we open up our social channels.  It’s about allowing our clients to communicate with us using the method or methods that they are most comfortable with.  If you are not available, your customers will go to somebody else who is.

All of my client communications come to my smartphone.  As a result, when they need me, I’m going to be there.

Q: Do you think that Facebook pages can be successfully run by the corporate marketing team or another outside centralized entity, or does each business need to maintain their own page?

A: I believe that it should be an 80/20 mix.  Your social media efforts need to be 80% self-generated and then 20% can be from an outside vendor.

You’ve got to get people’s attention first.  If I get your attention so that you are accustomed to interacting with me, then I can ask you to check out an insurance-related item.  You may not comment on or interact with that item, but at least you’re going to see it.

If all I am doing is putting corporate content in front of you, you’re going to get to the point where you will realize that the human element is missing and you’ll turn away.

Too many business people want to just set it and forget it, to flip a switch on social media, walk away and have it work.  It just won’t happen that way.

Q: What other advice would you give to someone looking to start their own Facebook page?

A: Social media is so new, there is no cookie-cutter approach or proven track record.  Every industry, community and person is different.

One of the best things you can do is to follow as many people who are in the social world as it relates to you business as possible.  One of my favorite social media experts is Gary Vaynerchuk.  For example, using one of his principles, rather than sending a client a generic $10 gas card to thank them for a referral, because we have gotten to know that they are a Cleveland Browns fan, we can send them a Browns t-shirt instead.

It’s much more meaningful to personalize your marketing.  Marketers first need to show that they are passionate and love what they are doing.  Next, they need to be real and be themselves.

At our agency, we show that we truly care about what we are doing.  Through social media, we demonstrate that we care about our clients and our community.  And they know that, when they need us, we will be here, no matter how they choose to communicate with us.